That’s the focus of director Amy Berg’s documentary “An Open Secret,” which hits New York on Friday amid a struggle to get it seen — and a threatened lawsuit from SAG-AFTRA, one of Hollywood’s most powerful union groups.
But Berg and her film’s team are intent on getting the word out about sexual predators in the TV, movie and modeling business who abuse kids. The film is beginning a theatrical rollout in 20 cities nationwide.
“The problem goes far and deep in Hollywood,” says “An Open Secret” executive producer Gabe Hoffman.
“The film tries to establish that the industry clearly has an institutional resistance [to calling out predators]. There should be, among many things, background cross-checking for people who work with children.”
Adds coproducer Matthew Valentinas, “This might be the film that busts the dam on this subject.”
“We only put in the film what we knew could be corroborated by the highest level of evidence. If we can stop this from happening to another child, all the hurdles will be worth it.”
The documentary, which Hoffman hints faced resistance from film fest selection committees but was screened for potential distributors at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, begins with a look at an underground eBay market for head shots of underage actors.
Berg then lets victims (now 18 or older) tell their stories. Former child actor Todd Bridges (“Diff’rent Strokes”) explains his abuse at the hands of his publicist, while Corey Feldman (“The Lost Boys”) appears in archival footage saying there’s a systemic problem.
Seen briefly is former child actor Michael Egan, who last year withdrew controversial lawsuits against “X-Men” director Bryan Singer and several others. Egan was subsequently charged with fraud.
“An Open Secret” then zeroes in on a trio of perpetrators: Marty Weiss, a manager of kid performers who pleaded no contest to two charges of oral copulation with a child under the age of 14; Marc Collins-Rector, a web-site entrepreneur who fled the U.S. in anticipation of a prison sentence following a guilty plea; and Michael Harrah, the founder and former chair of SAG-AFTRA’s Young Performers Committee who admits on-camera to inappropriate behavior with a minor.
“This film could be the start to show people there’s a problem in Hollywood,” says Evan H., a former child actor who shares the 2011 audio recording of Weiss, his former manager, in which Weiss admits to abusing him.
That led to Weiss’ conviction – though the court’s sentence of a year behind bars resulted in his being released that same day due to six months time served.
Evan, now 21, says his abuse by Weiss began when he was 11 years old and continued for six years.
Anne Henry, cofounder of BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves families of child performers, says that 10 years ago, “We used to speak about financial accounts, work hours or set safety. Now the first words out of our mouth are, ‘You have to keep your children safe.’
“We kept seeing common threads,” adds Henry. “Victims would come to us and say, ‘I don’t know who to tell, maybe you guys can help.’ We guide them to the right law enforcement agencies.”
BizParentz’s files provided a crucial starting point for Berg, who explored abuse in the Catholic Church in her Oscar-nominated 2007 documentary “Deliver Us From Evil.” But Henry also had a personal stake.
“My cofounder Paula Dorn and I are both parents of young performers, and our own children’s pictures were being sold on eBay,” Henry says. “That was our entrance into this weird world happening around us.”
Last week, it was reported that SAG-AFTRA had threatened the film’s producers with a lawsuit if references to the group were not cut from interviews conducted with Harrah.
So far, no suit has been filed. In a statement, Alonzo Wickers, the lawyer for “An Open Secret,” stated that “There is no legal requirement or editorial justification for stripping the documentary of any references to SAG, SAG-AFTRA, or SAG’s Young Performers Committee.”
Adds Valentinas, “I wish that instead of spending $100,000 on lawyers, SAG would donate $100,000 to foundations so we can change laws and make things safer for children.”
Source: Daily News